Technology redefines categories and experience

7E99A285-9B1F-4D8B-B72E-036022AEBE12.jpgI was not waiting on line at 5am for the iPad like some other people around the US. It's a device without a niche for me right now.

Think what you will of it, however, the technology behind the iPad and similar devices is helping to redefine categories that have had relatively little innovation in centuries.

Take the book industry. Now, I love my Kindle and it's innovative enough, but it uses the same paradigm as a print book. It works for what I need (quick consumption and ease of travel), but it is limited.

The experience of the Kindle is okay. It could be smoother and reminds me of what Blackberrys were like about 5 years ago. Get your hands on a new Blackberry and you'll see what I am talking about. It's smooth and easier to use yet still functional. The Kindle will catch up quickly.

Now, think about what publishing can look like on a device that senses when you tilt it or when you touch it. Have a look:


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The experience that new technology provides opens doors and lets us shift our thinking about old standards and the experience that can be delivered.

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First//Look: Augmented reality

Picture 10.pngWhat do you get when you take a webcam, a piece of paper and some cool 3D animation? You get augmented reality (AR). This is relatively new though it's been experimented with for a couple of years at least. In short, AR is the combination of objects in the real world being combined with virtual objects using a webcam and some programming.

Sounds pretty cool eh? You have to see it to know what I'm talking about.

[Feed readers please click through to the post for the video]

Examples you can try yourself right now:

Potential uses:


  • The symbols that it uses can be printed on anything; paper, t-shirts, ads, etc.
  • Any time you want to make a physical connection with virtual objects
  • Allows interaction and engagement with printed pieces
  • People are working on using mobile device cameras to do this while you're on the go
  • It's just plain cool. Give it a try!

BMW looks at using AR to diagnose issues and help mechanics be more efficient

Turn the real world into a huge video game

Really bring Second Life into first life

This is pretty cutting edge, so not every company is going to be comfortable with it. The hardware barrier is pretty low (webcam) so this can hit a mass audience. It's great for presenting things when in conceptual mode (architecture, cars, etc.) as well as adding interactivity to existing items.

My advice is try one of the models above and think about the possibilities in your business. The hardest part may be to stop thinking of them.

[Hat tip to the Fleishman-Hillard digital team in St. Louis for putting this back on my radar screen.]

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IDG Next Generation Marketing 2008 - Chang-Il Choi, LG Household and Healthcare

18CB5939-CBF9-480E-ACA3-239CD8431C17.jpgChang is on the consumer research team at LG's Household and Healthcare. He focused on product design, evolution and innovation. Internal and external forces help companies innovate.

Key takeaways:


  • Customer research in Web 2.0 is the focus of Chang's presentation
  • Creation of new products requires creative customer involvement
  • Internal customers - inner creative staff and researchers
  • External customers - expert customers and other business experts
  • This helps companies break inertia and myopia internally and to use external inertia
  • Look at current and customer competitors
  • Find competitive advantages in design, quality, ads, etc.
  • Trendspotting is necessary - possibly looking at restrictions and overcoming them
  • Cross-pollinating teams will help drive new ideation for products
  • Involving the right outside parties can help lead to more innovation where not expected - need to identify the lead users
  • Experts in other industries can help find new insights that apply
  • Darwin's theory of evolution was spawned from diversity and this is what is happening in technology today - more options let us see this evolution
  • The milk industry shows us the evolution of product/package design - calcium milk, skim, coffee creamer, etc.

Here is an example Chang mentioned from Japan for a new drink called White Coffee from Kirin (better know for their beer brewing in the US). This shifts the consumer from traditional views of coffee/packaging. It could work or backfire.

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Do one thing well

There is a lot to be said about doing one thing very well. Services like Twitter started as a way to update friends on what you are doing and it has stayed true to its mission. Other services have started simple and have fallen victim to feature creep and trying to be everything to everyone.

I am particularly fond of online applications that have some focus, use the medium very well and extend the focus in strategic, well-planned ways.

Take this new site called Umbrella Today. If you go to the site and enter your zip code, it tells you whether or not you need an umbrella that day. Super simple, very useful and they extend it to mobile very logically and at the right point in the interaction.

Picture 18.png

Once you see if you need an umbrella, they offer you an option to see if you would like an SMS alert should you need an umbrella in the future.

Picture 19.png

Simplification of complex systems and applications is a niche market in itself. This is a perfect example, think about how many clicks and how much reading it takes you to find out the answer to this simple question on a weather site.

There are very few sites that can maintain their focus, but those that do remain useful and relevant. What examples of simple websites or programs do you love?


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Video week day 4.5; pioneers and visionaries

As I prep the final video installment in video week here on the blog I wanted to share some shining examples of video at its best. The following should serve as examples of what to consider when you look at the power of video and what it brings to the table from an informational, branding and education point of view. Enjoy.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Wine Library TV
If Gary doesn't make you want to get up and create video content then you may be hopeless. His enthusiasm is off the charts, his knowledge of wine is incredible and the content follows suit. He has created an empire in the wine industry, his posts average 200-300 comments and people love him. His honesty and authenticity should serve as role models for us all.

Ask a Ninja
Yes this is more comedic, but these guys have created a character, a loyal following and a merchandise business to back up the demand.

BlendTec - Will It Blend
Will It Blend is one of the best examples of a company realizing the potential of the video space, choosing to fully engage in a valuable way and letting the conversation happen organically. BlendTec makes a line of high-end, powerful blenders. They're so powerful that you can blend everything from a leaf rake to a crowbar to an iPhone. They stay extremely relevant by looking at trends in social media and creating content around it. When Weezer's "Pork and Beans" video took off on YouTube, BlendTec created a video.

BMW - BMW Films
This is from a few years ago, but BMW's creation of webisodes to promote their cars in the format of short films took the Web by storm. This video featuring thier M5 sedan and Madonna was the most popular. It's engaging, showcases the product and is absolutely memorable.

BMW - GINA concept car
Not to harp on BMW, but they absolutely grasp the power of video. While most companies hide their innovations and forward thinking, BMW uses video to position themselves as thought leaders and true innovators. Check out this video featuring their new concept car, GINA. Do you hide your innovations or showcase them?

These are just a few examples, but I hope they bring you inspiration in your thinking about video as a viable, powerful medium.

What companies are doing video that you enjoy or get value from? Let me know!

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Visualizing interaction design

Picture 5.pngDid you know that there is a large, passionate community of digital design experts who focus on the ways that a consumer interacts online? It's a level above and beyond what a pure web designer does. Their thinking goes beyond Flash intros and shiny 2.0 graphics. These professionals think about how we consume sites visually and physically with the mouse and help brands convey their identity no matter the format.

A problem that I run in to often is that people don't get what interaction design is. I start to explain that it's a custom process that is generally design-led. Still, they look at me puzzled.

Picture 6.pngTo solve this, I've started looking for great examples to show people. One of the coolest examples of this is for a site that was done for Mercedes Benz in the UK. It's called A-to-S (playing off of their A-class and S-class lines).

The site uses Flash as the technology platform, but the experience behind each letter allows you to almost touch the screen. The mouse interacts in very logical, physical ways.

Have a look and let me know what you think. These small details make the difference in the experience when used correctly. Yes, there is more to interaction design, but I'm looking at the basics here. The complete definition of interaction design (IxD) can be found here or on the IxDA website here.


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What would it take to topple Twitter?

Picture 1.pngTwitter has a double unfair advantage over its competitors; a huge user base (estimated at over a million users now) and a very solid head start.

This hasn't stopped a host of new competitors from trying to give it a go. Among the latest competitors are BrightKite, Jaiku (who is owned by Google), Plurk, Utterz and even Facebook and LinkedIn have begun enabling micromedia updates on user profiles.

Picture 2.png
[Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod]

However, as Twitter's service woes keep mounting and user sentiment keeps edging toward the negative, I have to wonder...what would it take to topple Twitter?

In order to understand this, we need to look at what makes Twitter work. Let's break them down so we can see how it's gained such wide-spread popularity.

  1. Simplicity: Twitter does one thing really well. It lets you communicate what you're doing right now. Now other functionality (no matter how easy it would be to implement), 140 characters, one text field and one button. Anybody can look at it and start using it in minutes.
    What competitors need to do: Though I think that there is room beyond 140 characters of text on a service like this (think video and photos), it needs to remain easy to use. Design and usability needs to be where the majority of the development time is spent. The technology should, as I've said before, fade away to the background. If it's not clear on what the user should do within 5 seconds of opening the page it's too complicated.

  2. Ease of use: This builds on the previous idea of simplicity. Twitter let's you use it. It gets the heck out of your way and adds value by supporting conversation. The interface guides the user smoothly through the interactions. Posting a message is easy, replying is easy and the content is simple text. That's ease of use.

    What competitors need to do:This is a no-brainer. Any competitor who is going to topple Twitter will have to have an extremely easy to use service. Like I mentioned before, a lot of attention needs to be paid here. Too many services offer more features/better technology, but are a pain to use.

  3. Mobility: Twitter has a very strong mobile platform. Not only is the SMS (text messages) updating solid, but the mobile site allows most of the regular site's functionality from nearly any device and network. Either option allows for seamless use when away from the browser.

    What competitors need to do: There is no option for the competition to miss this crucial piece of the equation. The portability of the user experience has to be in place. Users need to be able to update and receive updates from any device in the world. SMS is growing in popularity and allows quick updates from US networks. The mobile site allows more reach and really lets the user step away from their computer with confidence. SMS also serves an important role in getting messages to people and breaking through the clutter.

  4. Platform agnostic: We just touched on the mobile platform, but Twitter's open architecture has allowed developers to extend the service to IM (AOL/GTalk/Jabber) as well as desktop applications. For IM, users add Twitter as a friend and send it their updates. Applications like Twhirl work like any desktop application (think Start > Applications > Twhirl) and don't make you keep a browser open at all times.

    What competitors need to do: This is another area that any competitor worth their salt will need to copy. The open architecture allows the development community to do its work and enhance the service faster than the competitor would be able to.

  5. Strong RSS: Twitter has a very strong RSS architecture. You can subscribe to individual's feeds, your own feed (messages and replies) and use the RSS feeds to build other services. Other services like Twitterfeed use RSS to update Twitter accounts automatically. You can look at my "Techno//Marketer" twitter feed for an example. That feed is 100% auto-generated by Twitterfeed.

    What competitors need to do: No question here either. RSS is a staple of the new digital frontier.

  6. Widgetization: Twitter had this right from the start. One of the most powerful ways that Twitter spread through the social media space was from the blog widget that allowed people to promote their messages as well as the service. It added value to the reader and drove new users. You can see my example in the right-hand panel of this blog.

    What competitors need to do: The more options people have to spread their content the better. Formats should be adjustable (width, height), customizable (color, branding) and should work everywhere possible.

  7. The community: This is Twitter's ace in the hole. No matter how good other services are, no matter how easy they are to use, no matter how comprehensive the utility there is no use for a service like this that doesn't have a community. While some competitors have been around longer they have not been able to build the buzz and following that Twitter has. Some of this is due the founder's background (having founder Blogger.com) having an immediate, connected audience.

    What competitors need to do: You have to transplant the community. What I mean is that a competitor that's looking to topple Twitter (not build a new, unique audience) will need to use the openness of Twitter against it. Accounts will need to be moved over while keeping all of that user's connections in tact. to move user's networks in whole. Accounts and logins will need to be moved to make it as easy a transition as possible.

What would you add to this list? Is Twitter indomitable at this point or are they Yahoo in 1999 with Google just around the corner?


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The scalability of language; the role of design

In this final installment of my series on the scalability of language online, I want to take a look at the role of design. So far we've looked at the challenges of language, the problems with machine translation, and the role of video. Design, though, enables ideas to transcend language to reach a much broader audience.

One of the best (if not the best) example of someone who uses design to convey complex ideas effortlessly is David Armano. Let's look at this illustration. To convey the complex ecosystem that has been created through the birth of social media and the immense fragmentation, David used a series of ripples. Like a rock thrown into a pond, it's something everyone is familiar with. The size of the circles conveys their impact (as would the size of the rock). It's intuitive and doesn't need copy to assist it.

Picture 17.png

I asked David to give his thought on the use of design to overcome the language gap:

0A5913B7-CCF6-4621-AA7F-7BC3CD62B598.jpg"We were born with two eyes. Before we could speak words, we could see the world, recognize the faces of our parents and gaze into their eyes.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how important visual stimulus really is. We scribbled drawings before writing. Visuals help bring us back to a universal understanding where words can sometimes fail us. It's time to pick up our crayons again."

Picture 18.pngOther bloggers use design to help us think through ideas. Roger von Oech uses his offline products to inspire us all to be more creative. He taps into his wildly successful (and I can personally say very helpful) Whack Pack series to help you think differently. The imagery on each card gives you a better idea of what you can expect.

Design also manifests itself with photography and there is nobody who uses photography better and is more prolific than Thomas Hawk. Thomas is a photographer in San Francisco who covers topics that he is passionate about including photography (duh), photographer's rights and social media. Many of his posts are comprised of single photographs that convey the emotion of the time and place.

These are just a few of the examples where design helps to transcend language. It's a very powerful tool when put in the right hands. Design can just as easily confuse and bankrupt ideas of their merit.

Who have you noticed that uses design to convey ideas? Have you seen it used incorrectly? Let me know your thoughts.

[This was supposed to auto-post last Friday. Sorry for the delay.]


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Developing personas for marketing strategy

people2.jpgPersonas are an extremely valuable tool for marketers in any field. If you're not familiar with the term, personas are representations of your target audience based on research and interviews. From PR to digital to advertising, any marketing team or agency can benefit from developing client- and/or brand-specific personas.

As an example, let's say one of your target audience types is a 18-21 year old male who likes emo music, skateboarding and high-end electronics. You would come up with a name for this person along the lines of "Nate" and you would find an image of him to use in your planning. When you start making decisions about marketing strategies, you would check back to "Nate" and ask if it would reach him. What would reach him more effectively? What message does he need to hear. That is a basic model of persona development. Here is some more information to guide you through the process.

Why personas are important:

  • Personas put a face on the customer. Some persona programs give people names so you can refer to them and see them in a physical representation. The agency Organic creates persona rooms where their people live so the project team can become fully immersed.
  • Personas remove the tendency to think of yourself as the customer. You have to step back and this gives you the structure to do so.
  • Act as a guide throughout the process of developing marketing communications programs, cross mediums (print, digital, outdoor, TV, etc.).
  • Keeps designers, copywriters, programmers on track and avoids waste by remaining focused on the customer.

How people screw them up:

  • Personas take time and research to get right.
  • This includes some time in the field and meeting face-to-face with the customer.
  • People think they know their customer without looking at data.
  • Personas are often used up front in the marketing strategy process and don't carry through the process.

How you can avoid screwing them up:

  • Get data. Collect it from the web and third party sources. Analyze web traffic. Do in-person interviews and ethnography. Get a big picture view and then analyze it objectively.
  • Talk to your customers. Videotape them. Record the audio. Take notes. Come back with a real feeling for who you are trying to reach.
  • Compare what you saw to the data and look for the insights.
  • Evolve the personas over time. Adapt them as your product lines change or the economy changes. These should be living, breathing entities.

A great sample model.
I found this great model on Idris Mootee's site in a post where he compared the problems that MBAs and MFAs have in the workplace. It's a great start to being able to wrap your head around these ideas.

persona_10 steps.jpg1. Finding the users
Questions asked: Who are the users? How many are there? What do they do with the system/brand?
Methods used: Quantitative data analysis.
Documents produced: Reports.

2. Building a hypothesis
Questions asked: What are the differences between the users?
Methods used: Looking at the material. Labeling the groups of people.
Documents produced: Draft a description of the target groups.

3. Verifications
Questions asked: Data for personas (likes/dislikes, inner needs, values). Data for situations (area of work, work conditions). Data for scenarios (work strategies and goals, information strategies and goals).
Methods used: Quantitative data collection.
Documents produced: Reports.

4. Finding patterns
Questions asked: Does the initial labeling hold? Are there more groups to consider? Are all equally important?
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

5. Constructing personas
Questions asked: Body (name, age picture). Psyche (extrovert/introvert). Background (occupation). Emotions and attitude towards technology, the company (sender) or the information that they need. Personal traits.
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

6. Defining situations
Questions asked: What is the need of this persona?
Methods used: Looking for situations and needs in the data.
Documents produced: Categorization of needs and situations.

7. Validation and buy-in
Questions asked: Do you know someone like this?
Methods used: People who know (of) the personas read and comment on the persona descriptions

8. Dissemination of knowledge
Questions asked: How can we share the personas with the organization?
Methods used: Fosters meetings, emails, campaigns of every sort, events.

9. Creating scenarios
Questions asked: In a given situation, with a given goal, what happens when the persona uses the technology/engages with the brand?
Methods used: The narrative scenario - using personas descriptions and situations to form scenarios.
Documents produced: Scenarios, use cases, requirement specifications.

10. On-going development
Questions asked: Does the new information alter the personas?
Methods used: Usability tests, new data
Documents produced: A person responsible for the persona input from everybody who meet the users.

*Diagram developed by Lene Nielsen of Snitker & Co.

More quality persona resources:

So what else do you do when planning personas? How do you develop them? How do you adapt them? What's the balance between qualitative and quantitative feedback?

 

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Kelly Goto on user experience design basics

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Goto when she came in to do a presentation the Fleishman-Hillard office in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I've heard Kelly's name before from her myriad speaking engagements and I know her design consulting firm, but I had no idea that she was the person who wrote THE web design bible. (I highly encourage you to check out her book.)
 

Her presentations were full of very helpful tips and it was great to see a strategic, manageable approach to user experience design (UXD as it's called in the trade). There is a trend out there to make UXD so complicated and labor intensive that it becomes overwhelming and slows down the process. Her advice was to stay agile.

She talked at length about becoming an experience ethnographer and how she accomplishes what she does on a scale from Fortune 100 companies down to small projects. Her main point was finding the difference between what people say (in a focus group or interview) and what they do (either by following them or through photo diaries). That is where the valuable insights come into play.

Kelly asked us to find a balance between practical and emotional design. Making sure that the user accomplishes what they need to, but also that the experience is as good as it can be. She urged us to look at simplified applications like Twitter that really work to accomplish one task really well as a basis. Feature creep is a killer in web-based environments.

She and I talked about the constant "battle" inside agencies between technology and design and how the real opportunity for growth is to blend the two areas. CSS, for example, has given non-technical designers a way to use technology to impact the user experience in a positive way and from device to device.

We also spoke about how Flash development provides companies the ultimate opportunity to bring technology and design together, to have this conversation and move toward better experiences. The use of creative and ActionScript (the language that makes Flash move and interact with elements and data) provide a powerful tool for creating rich, immersive experiences.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the best technology around is invisible to the user. Design can act as a shield for technological complexity when done correctly, but can make simple technology overly complex if done poorly.

I absolutely loved her company moto which is "Exceed expectations, take vacations". I highly encourage you to seek out Kelly and her advice as it's truly valuable and practical for any organization.

Photo courtesy of petele on Flick.

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New MySpace profile design; too little too late

myspace_logo.gifI received an email from the MySpace crew the other day informing me that they were working on a new profile look-and-feel. I've had a lot of issues with MySpace's design, which I've noted before. Namely I think the advertising encroachment upon the user's personal space is out of hand. The result is that profile pages look cluttered and corporate.

The new version makes a step in the right direction. You can absolutely see a bit of Facebook UI influence and the advertising real estate has decreased by around 30% (in my estimation). The page uses more white space and puts more emphasis on making it feel more my own. The advertising is still way too prominent across the entire site, there is a complete lack of balance that I believe is one element of the exile of people from MySpace to Facebook.

Here are the old and new designs side-by-side. I've highlighted the personal space on the pages.





Old version
myspace_old.png
New version
myspace_new.png

MySpace is still the king of traffic at almost 4 times that of Facebook, but Facebook is growing much more rapidly. I think one of the ways that MySpace could try to stop the flood is to focus more on the users. Whether that is in NewsCorp's plans is doubtful.

So what do you think?


  • Is MySpace still relevant to you?
  • How could they bring you back?
  • Most people have an account, why don't people use it? Is there any going back?
  • If you could sit down and tell Rupert Murdoch one thing about what he should do with the site, what would it be?


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Whiteboard//Session: What is AJAX?

Picture 15.pngNot a day goes by when I don't see complex technical terms thrown around in media press or on blogs. I often wonder if the average marketer knows what half of these terms mean. This new series is aimed at graphically illustrating (this is where the whiteboard comes into play) complex terms in ways that normal, non-geek people can understand.

In this installment, I take a look at AJAX. This is a huge Web2.0 buzzword that you hear all the time, but do you really know what it means? It's actually quite straight forward from a marketing point of view.

AJAX Stands for Asynchronous JAvasript and XML. As a marketer you don't need to know about Javascript, which is a programming language, nor do you really need to know about XML, which is a data storage standard. The Asynchronous part is what is interesting. This allows web pages to behave in a more dynamic, application-like manner. Google's Reader, Mail and Documents all work with AJAX to make them work more fluidly for the end user. Data is transmitted and stored via XML behind the scenes to enable this process to happen.

This is also responsible for the so called "death of the pageview". Pages don't need to reload to get content thereby eliminating impressions. Check out the video for a tutorial on what AJAX is from a 30,000 foot, marketing centric view.


[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Key takeaways:


  • AJAX allows technology to get out of the way of the end user
  • UX is improved through more dynamic, application-like interfaces
  • This idea is a driver behind Web2.0, but has been around for a while
  • Microsoft has their own version of AJAX called Atlas (same principle behind it)
  • AJAX bridges the design/UI field and the technical/integration field to make the users happier
  • Less pages to load means less impressions hence the death of the pageview
  • Major companies are using AJAX to design more responsive, rich interfaces than is possible in Flash

Is there a term that's confusing you? Do your tech guys like to show you up and you want a little revenge? Email me or leave me a comment with the terms/ideas/buzzwords that you would like to see explained in a future post. Also, let me know if you have ways you think I can improve on this concept.


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Buzz Friday for August 24, 2007

more-buzz.jpgHere is a look at what is happening across social media and new marketing this week. If there is anything that you would like to see in this post or if you have something you think is Buzz-worthy please drop me an email or leave a comment on this post. I want to make this as beneficial for you as I can.

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[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Here are all of the items that I think are interesting this week:


  • If you like the iPhone, but not AT&T you may be in luck. A group of developers has seemingly unlocked the iPhone. Check out this article on Engadget.
  • YouTube announced in-video overlay ads this week to much discussion, debate and outright anger from some users. They've since announced that ads will be optional and controlled by content creators.
  • WalMart is on Facebook....yes I am serious here. Jeremiah has a good first look at what is happening there.
  • People are still having fun with Microsoft's Zune and the rumors that they're releasing a phone too.


  • Do you like bacn? Bacn is the newest hot slang floating around the Net. Basically it means all of the email that you get from social networking sites that you want to read, but wish wasn't in your inbox. More here.
  • Google may work to create a NYC mass transit guide reports Bloomberg.
  • Many companies are banning Facebook as office productivity sags. I personally like Neville Hobson's take on it "don't just ban Facebook, provide guidance".
  • The NY Times launched MyTimes. Is this too little way too late? Seems like it should have come out 6 years ago.
  • Tired of shopping online by yourself? Visit CrowdStorm and shop in a community of users.
  • Rumors of a Google phone + CEO talking about "probably" bidding on new wireless spectrum = confused, but possibly excited public.
  • Patrick Schaber at Lonely Marketer had amazing coverage of SES San Jose last week. Check it out if you want to catch up and see what happened. This post on image marketing was particularly nice.
  • Are you still pitching bloggers with the same old generic email or press release? Want to pitch bloggers the right way? Take BL Ochman's great advice.
  • Are you starting a new company blog? Do you want to get a lot of subscribers right off the bat? Tap your client list and optimize your content offering as Brian Clark suggests.
  • Twitter is finally rolling out some real value-add enhancements. Check out the people search on the main page.
  • Adobe's new Flash player will support HD video. This will hurt services like Joost, et. al. who were counting on p2p delivery or other non-traditional delivery of video.
  • MTV, Real and Verizon have joined forces to offer up a new music service. Does this sound like a good move to anybody out there? Real is dead, MTV's audience is on iTunes more than any other group and Verizon isn't innovating anything.
  • Scott Weisbrod points out a new Forrester report on the death of the traditional marketing funnel. I agree with David Armano that their illustration is confusing and like his much better.
  • Google's added map embedding now so you can copy a map into a website or blog with very little technical assistance.
  • Rohit @ Influential Interactive Marketing has a great post on how to sell social media to your boss. Anybody have any other tactics?
  • Zoho Writer has used Google Gears to offer offline support. This is going to happen more and more as people take the online apps offline.
  • US-based social net Bebo will offer Windows Live Messenger as its sole IM solution.
  • Wanna kick it old school with a mix tape? How about Mix Tape USB?
  • I wish Starbucks would do this. Dominos Pizza is accepting pizza orders via SMS in the UK.
  • Nokia's killer N95 phone looks to be coming to the US.
  • Christopher Carfi at the Social Customer Manifesto has a nice presentation about business blogging.
  • What did you learn from Skype's outage? Some people benefitted.
  • If you want to get out of your Verizon contract, you will have to actually die. Faking your death will not cut it.


Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. Skype [remaining buzz from service collapse]
  2. Geni
  3. CrazyEgg [boosted from controversy with YouTube ad format]
  4. Slide [Facebook applications keeping them high on the chart]
  5. blip.tv

More

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden


  1. Seth's blog
  2. Gaping Void
  3. Duct Tape Marketing
  4. Logic + Emotion
  5. Search Engine Guide
  6. Diva Marketing
  7. What's Next
  8. Daily Fix
  9. Drew's Marketing Minute
  10. Converstations

View the top full top 25

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from the AdAge Power 150


  1. Seth Godin
  2. Pronet Advertising
  3. Micro Persuasion
  4. Copyblogger
  5. Search Engine Watch
  6. Search Engine Land
  7. Adrants
  8. Online Marketing Blog
  9. Adverblog
  10. Publishing 2.0
  11. PSFK

View the full list here

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Cheney '94
  2. Insane Wave pool in Tokyo
  3. Gregorious: NMKY
  4. Content Aware Image Sizing
  5. Stop SPP Protest

More


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First//Look: Microsoft's Tafiti (beta)

Picture 3.pngThe competition for search eyeballs is an intense game. Anything that a company can do to test new waters or create real differentiation could potentially be a driver for new user acquisition. Of the big three search proprietors, Microsoft has stepped up with an innovative new visual search tool called Tafiti (which means "do research" in Swahili).

Built on the company's Silverlight (it's basically another version of Flash and could be the downfall of this product) platform, Tafiti allows users to search in an interactive, visual environment. The motion is fluid and rich and should appeal to anybody who is tired of the stark white look of Google or the overly crushed look of Yahoo. This universal search tool incorporates images, RSS, news and books into one search with a visual toggle between them. The option that allows you to drag results to a pile for later reference is a very cool idea. (Makes me wonder if/when Apple would partner with Google to do something like this.)

Here is the video for your review.

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Key takeaways:


  • All major search players are moving to universal search
  • Visual search overlays like this one could be a part of next generation search apps
  • Because items like images, videos, RSS, books, etc. will be indexed, marketers need to start looking at tags and other meta data to make sure people can find them
  • Silverlight = Flash functionality, but it's a separate plugin
  • Would be interesting if Microsoft built another version of this in Flash to bump up adoption

Related posts:


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What my dogs can teach you about user experience design

First, meet my dogs. Two loving, balls of energy named Copeland and Crawford.

boysinwater.jpg

Now, if you know my wife and I, you know that our dogs are our children. We tend to spoil them and go a little overboard at times. But, we love them. One of the indulgences we treat them to is doggie ice cream. They come in the same type containers that ice cream used to come in (maybe it still does) in school when you would eat it with a tiny wooden spoon.

There are two types of doggie ice cream to choose from in the ice cream section at the grocery (I am not making this up, go check for yourself), Dogsters and Frosty Paws. Our dogs will, honestly, eat anything so we generally buy a couple boxes of each and ration them out when the temperature gets hot.

copeland_icecream.jpgSo what does this have to do with user experience you ask? I'll tell you. The Frosty Paws ice cream comes in a paper cup and the Dogsters comes in a plastic one. Want to guess which company has actually seen dogs with their product in the real world? No matter how fast I am to retrieve the container after they're done, one of my guys has usually half-chewed and digested the container. Now which would you rather have your dog eat, the paper one or the sharp, splintering plastic one?

Needless to say we have switched entirely to Frosty Paws because it is crystal clear that they've actually spent time with dogs and their products in the real world. They care enough to adjust the product (which also used to come in plastic containers) to use paper for the health and safety of the dog.

So let's put this in the perspective of digital marketing. The user experience is the differentiator between just being some random website and something you would add to your bookmarks. It's the difference between vanity and utility, between forgotten and viral. The best experience designers study how the users interact in the real world and adapt the objects to meet their needs. Maybe people are looking at your site on mobile phones. Maybe you have a lot of busy moms who have a kid in one arm and are trying to find quick information. How do you know unless you engage them in conversation?

Do you test new features with your customers in real-world conditions? How many services lose support because of poor testing and experience design?

Any experience designers want to weigh in here?


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Apple changes rules, forgets to tell customers

Apple store lineI, for one, am all for changing the rules if it makes things better for the customer. Many companies have taken the old way of doing business in their vertical and have created new markets by shifting the old rules. Netflix, Wikipedia, Target are all examples of companies who are changing the world.

I would also group Apple into that lot with their innovative approaches to industrial design and user interface. Tonight, however, I had a mixed experience at my local Apple retail store due to a miscommunicated shift in the rules of retail. I went in to the store to pick up a copy of iWork 08 (I give presentations using Keynote) and to check out the new iMac. I picked up the software, strolled around and grabbed a couple of other things that struck me (there is always something), played around with the iMac and got ready to go.

When I first walked into the store I noticed that they had done some remodeling. The Genius Bar was positioned in the back of the store where the checkout counter had been and the checkout counter itself had been removed completely. Now, I frequent the Apple store so I know that they've had hand-held checkout systems in place for a while now and that any Apple staff member can check you out without having to go to the counter.

The problem is that I am in the minority of the people who know this. There was a line 15 people deep at one point for people ready to checkout, but they were all standing in the genius bar line because that's where the checkout counter always was plus it was a counter with people standing behind it (lemmings I tell you). The other staff members were all helping people and so the line continued to build. Finally a couple of the staff broke away and started going through this impromptu line one-by-one. It was horribly inefficient and defeated the whole purpose of the change in rules.

Apple's innovative point of sale system is cutting-edge and the store concept is beautiful and much more utilitarian. The problem is that they changed the rules without telling anybody or helping them to understand. I am a loyal Apple user and I almost went home without purchasing. What would it have hurt to have a greeter at the door to offer a welcome and tell you that when you are ready any staff member could check you out. Even more cost effectively, why not print something on their uniform t-shirts that says something to that effect?

shift.png

Like I said, I am all for changing rules, but not telling anybody could hurt the brand and really irritate people who just want to give you money. I've seen this manifest itself in the digital space many times. Think about what happens when a major site that you use goes through a re-design. Things get renamed and moved around in the name of progress. Major navigation or checkout changes can be catastrophic. Imagine if Amazon renamed the "Shopping Cart" to "My Backpack" for some reason. You may get it down eventually, but you shouldn't have to think about something that mission-critical.

So what can you do when the rules need an update?


  • Keep the end-user in mind at every stage
  • Identify your key paths/clickstreams through the site
  • Maintain crucial paths or, if you must change them, make it painfully clear what the user should do
  • Use a value index to rate changes (does it add value, lower the value or keep the value where it is) and strive to add value along each path
  • Test, test, test some more and then test again
  • State the changes you made and show how to do the same things in a newer (hopefully better) way
  • Use video, audio or screencasts to usher people through the site in the way they choose to engage you

Has there ever been a site that made changes that should have been good (or you eventually found were nice), but they were poorly communicated? If the rules need to change, how do you lead the way and bring your customers with you?


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Buzz Friday for July 20, 2007

more-buzz.jpgHere is a look at what is happening across a couple of sites I keep an eye on. I am refining this post over time, so if there is anything you would like me to add just email me or leave a comment. Similarly, if you have something you think is Buzz Friday worthy let me know and I'll look it over for inclusion.

iTunes.jpgBuzz Friday is also available as part of the Techno//Marketer Podcast on iTunes. Click here to subscribe and take the Buzz to go.


[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Here are all of the items that I think are interesting this week:


  • Joe Jaffe started a firestorm in his podcast Across The Sound when he offered to allow a company to sponsor his podcast in trade for an iPhone. Mack Collier picked up and ran with it. Check the video for my take.
  • Valeria offers up a couple nice points on Facebook and other networks. I think there is a twist to this though. Check the video.
  • Becky Carroll has a fantastic primer on what user experience is. This is a must-read in my mind. David Armano is polling his readers about the top names in user experience.
  • BL Ochman had a really nice post on the "real value" of social networks. Her point (and mine as well) is that these networks are helping to build real relationships, share knowledge and improve our lives little by little. There is a lot going on in social media which makes it exciting and challenging. If you feel overwhelmed, just back off a bit.
  • Greg Verdino gets my award for best photo on a blog post. His point is something I preach all the time. To truly uinderstand social media and marketing with it, you have to use it. What are you waiting for? Jump in!
  • Sean Scott at 15 minutes bought a copy of the Age of Conversation and really hit the nail on the head in his post 'Is your company structured right?". Let's build on this momentum and affect change!
  • EBay's getting in on the Facebook movement.
  • My latest Commercial Worthy post is up at The Madison Avenue Journal. What do you think?
  • Mark's got an great take on what social networks he uses and why.
  • The VP of Strategic Marketing at FedEx doesn't like blogging and thinks it doesn't impact Google search results. He must not search very much. Check out Jeremiah's take.
  • Ever wonder what you'd look like as a Simpson character? Head over here and Simpsonize yourself.
  • Mashable has a great look at the numbers behind high-buzz sites like Pownce, Facebook and Twitter. Check it here.
  • Tech Crunch acquired the site InviteShare which allows people to get invites to new beta versions of social media sites.
  • Veoh signed a deal with Verizon to deliver videos from the site to Verizon mobile users. Look for more of this type of arrangement this next year.
  • Josh Hallet at HyKu posts about how blogging can be used to drive economic development.
  • Brilliant little bit of buzz viral in this post from Faris Yakob. This type of inteagration in the digital space is impressively engaging.
  • Facebook overtook MySpace in the UK foir the number of search queries.
  • Lots of good press on the Age of Conversation project that I am a part of. Check out the site for more info.
  • Hong Kong's mass transit train system is getting WiFi.
  • There is a rumor that Vodafone is looking to buy Verizon. Would be a major move for global cellular.
  • Google is trying to purchase a chunk of the US 700Mhz wireless spectrum (thank you Michelle!). With this move they could control what companies use it and how those arrangements with consumers happen. AT&T isn't happy and has responded.

Top 10 Technorati Searches


  1. youtube
  2. noelia
  3. skyblog
  4. harry potter
  5. ron paul
  6. myspace
  7. photobucket
  8. bebo
  9. xu jinglei
  10. iphone

Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. Zaadz
  2. 37 Signals
  3. Stickam
  4. Bolt
  5. Rojo

More

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden


  1. Seth's Blog
  2. Gaping Void
  3. Duct Tape Marketing
  4. Logic + Emotion
  5. Diva Marketing
  6. Daily Fix
  7. Converstations
  8. What's Next
  9. Church of the Customer
  10. Drew's Marketing Minute

View the top full top 25

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Todd Andrlik - Check out my featured profile on Todd's site


  1. Seth Godin
  2. Micro Persuasion
  3. tompeters!
  4. Pronet Advertising
  5. Adrants
  6. SEOMoz Blog
  7. Online Marketing Blog
  8. Duct Tape Marketing
  9. Marketing Pilgrim
  10. PSFK

View the full list here

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Will it blend? iPhone
  2. Breaking news: all online data lost...
  3. Debate '08: Obama girl vs. Giuliani girl
  4. Diet Coke and mentos
  5. The Wind

More

[Honorable mention: prison thriller from Sean Howard @ CrapHammer]


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Conversations in social media spread like wildfire

london2012.gifWhen I first saw the controversial London Olympics 2012 logo, I had a reaction. I am not a designer (although I think I have a pretty good eye) so I left that conversation to people with a lot more experience. However, the debate that has resulted and the other movements circling the net are being done online using social media. That's right up my alley so let's get a short overview.

The logo was unveiled on June 4th as a press conference. It cost about $800,000 US and people are greatly polarized on it. There were multiple options to choose from and this won out. (Personally I see this logo as more art than story teller, but who am I?)

Read these posts for more information and great insights:

I think the interesting thing in this situation is the way in which the conversation and opinions spread. Think back a couple years ago. Olympic logo unveilings consisted of a press conference, pre-packaged TV and radio sound-bytes and a press kit. News outlets covered it, but the opinion was all offline. You may have talked about it for a day at the coffee shop or maybe a bit longer if it was your home country.

But today, the animal is different. You can pre-package clips and media kits all you want, but the Internet works faster than the wire does. Somebody attends the event, snaps a pic and some video, uploads it to YouTube and Flickr, creates a blog post (see above), pings the search engines and viola. The conversation is born while the press is still rewinding their tape recorders and PR people scramble.

Opinion spreads virally through blogs, comments, parody, etc. That's what happened here. There is even a petition to revoke the logo (see it here) with 50,000 names attached. All of that in TWO days.

The technology is driving this conversation. It's allowing people from around the world to share ideas in near real time and it's making the job of PR folks much more difficult. There are a lot more conversations happening in more places than ever. How are you monitoring what people are saying about you and your brand? They are talking you know. Go take a look.

What should the London committee do in this case? Should they allow people to vote or should they stick to their guns?


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The importance of getting people to the finish line

There they goMy wife ran the Cleveland half marathon yesterday and so, being a supporting husband, I drove her down and hung out waiting for the finish. I had a couple of hours to kill so I walked around downtown shooting some images. I caught the runners at the one mile mark seen here and I got to cheer on some friends and some interesting characters including running nuns, a guy in a full business suit and a hippie on roller blades being pulled wildly by two huskies.

Once I stopped laughing and everyone passed by I headed down into the Warehouse District and then into the Flats. As I was standing there shooting with my eye to the camera I heard what sounded like a LARGE group of people running up to me. I turned and there were 30 runners with 10K badges asking me "Where are we? Where is the race?". I was shocked that this many people got sidetracked from the course and I quickly sent them back up the hill toward the finish line. It turned out they were amongst the strongest runners on the pack.

I don't know if you've ever run a race like this, but the last thing you want to have to do is think about where you are going on top of running flat out. People are supposed to be directing you with cones, signs, police officers and race vehicles. The runners should just need to run. That's it. It turned out that the lead vehicle was sent the wrong way along with several hundred 10K runners who ran up to 2.7 extra miles while lost. (The local paper picked it up here.)

handbike_cornering.jpg

It made me think about the user experience on web sites (I do that a lot you know). When a visitor comes to your site, do they intuitively know where to go? Do they know what to do? Or, will they get so off course that they just give up?

People shouldn't have to work to get to where you need them to be online. If your goal is a purchase it should be easy to browse, add things to a cart and check out. If your goal is an RSS subscription, it should be prominent on the site and use best practices. If people have to put in too much extra effort to give you what you want, they'll quit and probably not return.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need people to do?
  • Can somebody, with no prior knowledge of the site, do that easily?
  • How do you make sure people stay on the course?
  • If they get off-course how do you bring them back?
  • How do you make sure people return the next time they need the same thing?

Do you think about this on your site? If so, how do you do this? If you don't you should take a hard look and think about making some alterations.


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Extending your online network, taking social media offline

Picture 3.pngThere are myriad ways of networking and connecting with people. Sites like LinkedIn and Ziki offer users ways to connect with others and extend their network online. Bloggers are natural connectors. The whole existence and future growth of the blogosphere is reliant on people making connections around content and creating rich conversations.

So as a blogger, and natural connector, who attends a host of networking events I want to drive people back to my online presence so they can start engaging with me. It took one meetup to figure out the pain of writing my blog address on my business card so I went in search of the solution. There are a number of options out there. You can create traditional business cards on the cheap, but they lack personality and look bad. You can get more ambitious and print custom biz cards, but the process online isn't that great and it's pricey.

moocards_top.jpgThen it hit me. I'd seen a company called Moo a while back when I was surfing through Flickr. Moo is a British company that just "loves to print". What the company does is print small (smaller than a business card) cards featuring your images (from Flickr or your harddrive) and then allows you to add copy to the front. I logged in and within minutes I had connected to my Flickr account, dragged in the photos I wanted on the cards, added my blog information and paid $40 for 200 cards.

moocards.jpgThe entire experience of Moo.com is so well done that you almost know what the quality of the final product will be from the outset (the product exceeded my expectations as well). The copy they use, the messages and timing is fantastic. You'll find yourself smiling through the process. To boot, the price is great at $20 for 100 cards.

This is a really nice way to leave an impression on people so they remember you and connect to you online. The size of the cards and the content prompts everyone who gets one to ask you about them. These are great to promote your blog and LinkedIn address as well as showcasing your photography (even if it's your head shot). This would be great for photographers (Thomas Hawk uses Moo cards) as well as a host of other options like sharing play date information with other mothers or for neighborhood teenagers running a summer lawn service. On one card I have three different types of social media contact points; my blog, Flickr photos and LinkedIn profile.

The point is that a remarkable company is making a remarkable product and you can leverage that to be remarkable yourself.

UPDATE: Moo have just release their notecard product. I am going to order some to use as personal stationary and as thank you notes. Very cool.


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Google, Yahoo testing next generation search

Within the past two days I have come across new, early beta versions of both Google and Yahoo's next gen search. Yahoo's alpha and Google's SearchMash are serving as test beds for new features. The two are notably similar in interface and content (who copied who I wonder?) and show a clear direction from both firms moving toward a more integrated search experience. The content is pulled in through AJAX-like technology so the user doesn't need to surf to view related content.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of each engine:

Google SearchMash home page
Picture 5.png
Yahoo alpha home page
Picture 6.png
Google SearchMash results page
Picture 3.png
Yahoo alpha results page
Picture 7.png
Google SearchMash integrated content
Picture 4.png
Yahoo alpha integrated content
Picture 2.png

Similarities: Besides the interface, the results formatting and the type of information included in the related content are similar. Both have videos (Note: Yahoo even pulls in Google's YouTube content), Wikipedia entries and images (Flickr on the Yahoo side).

Divergences: Google singles out blogs (even though they're included in the main results) and Yahoo pulls in News and Answers information. I would look for Google and Yahoo to add in all of their properties over time (groups, shopping, etc.).

What does this mean for marketers? It means that more content is going to be presented to the user with higher importance. For example, right now most marketers probably don't pay attention to the images that may be tagged to their company name. With this new search, consumers will be able to quickly see image information (like your CEO dancing at the Christmas Party) on the main landing page. On the flip side, images can be powerful marketing vehicles and special attention should be paid to making sure they are tagged appropriately.

The same can be said for video. Video search is just starting to get traction, but the marketing potential (both up-side and down-side) is tremendous. Users will be one click away from information that now takes them 2-3 extra clicks. This will put a higher weight on that content. We need to prepare now for this change as I'm pretty sure this is not too far off.

Go to both of these sites and use them. Get acquainted with the format. Then think to yourself, what can I do today to make sure all of my content is search-ready tomorrow?


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Learning from Adobe's Kuler

Picture 1.pngAdobe Labs recently released a new community environment (named Kuler) that allows designers to create, share and interact with color palettes. Here are some interesting points in Kuler that can/should be applied to other communities and used by social marketers:



  • Celebrate your customer's core tenets: Color choice is one of the key factors that separate good designers from great ones. Adobe has found a way to celebrate this building block and allow a task that is usually done in solitude to be expressed openly and in a supportive, peer-driven community.
  • Hyper-focused: Adobe could have started a much broader network covering all areas of design, but they chose to have a focus. Now they can gauge interest and tailor the expansion of this network over time in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Ties in to product (it's a utility): It's no secret that Adobe is looking to move its suite of products online. This is a brilliant step to start getting designers to work online and create a feeling for what is possible. This community site also allows users to download color palettes for use inside CS2/3 to extend the value of the information beyond the browser.
  • Simple, tailored interface: What would you expect from a design company? The interface is clean, modern and utilitarian. Users can surf in a fluid environment using Adobe technology and learn at the same time.

As opposed to the usual, non-strategic corporate entry into community sites ("give me MySpace, but with my logo on it"), this is a good model for a consumer product company looking to get into the social fray. Start with a focus, add value to your customers, allow them to share and promote your brand through their interactions and test the waters for a more robust solution down the road.



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More great environmental, interactive advertising

800x600_collage.jpgOne of my favorite trend watching sites is PopURLs. The information is timely and relevant and I have the ability to control a lot of the content on the page. One content area on the page shows the top 18 photos on Flickr at the moment (see a screen capture below). As you'll notice, the 18 images starting from left to right are from Flickr. The last three spots in each row are actually part of an ad for Hammer and Coop, a 70s action parody from BMW's Mini brand.

So what makes this kind of environmental advertising work?


  • It's obviously custom-made for this site and shows the brand cares enough to tailor the creative
  • It interrupts the user in an unexpected way to be more memorable
  • It's in line with the tone of the site and the audience

Here is the Mini example:

Picture 1.png


By comparison, here is the normal way this area looks...blatant and easily ignored:

Picture 2.png


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Multi-touch interaction, beyond the iPhone

I subscribe to the TED Talks podcast feed and I've seen some really great presenters covering a very wide range of topics. As Apple's Steve Jobs released the iPhone at Macworld earlier this week I thought back to one of TED's most impressive presenters as it related to applicable technology. That presentation was done by NYU researcher Jeff Han and multi-touch interaction.

Chris Anderson, TED's founder, thought the same and asked Jeff what his thoughts were. I agree with Jeff and I'd predict we see larger versions of multi-touch screens within the next couple of years. It's really fascinating and intuitive.



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Apple and the end of the PC era

Om Malik, Internet visionary and pontificator, posted a marvelous entry on his blog Gigaom.com today. At the end of Steve Jobs' keynote address, he stated that from this point forward, Apple would drop the 'Computer' in 'Apple Computer Inc.' and henceforth be referred to as 'Apple Inc.'.

As Om states, this is Apple's final and resounding move to become a consumer electronics company and not a computer manufacturer. Other news sources and bloggers wondered where the *mac* part of Macworld has gone. Well, Apple has moved beyond the Mac. Far beyond hte Mac that we all think of today. But why does that have to be? This new iPhone device runs OSX, and does all of the major things that my Macbook Pro does. Maybe we just need to re-define what a Mac is and usher in this new era with more spectacular products and software to extend them to more and more users.


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